Those of us that were around in a bygone era will remember it fondly – the drawn-out but charming ritual of a steam train getting into action. Initially it blows and wheezes, then begins to chug with more authority, and once it gets its head, the clickety-clack of the wheels becomes an unbroken stream of sound, and nothing, but nothing can halt its progress. Come hill or dale, there is only one way, and that is forward.
This is perhaps a great metaphor for Kevin Strijbos’ progress in the 2012 motocross world championship season. His season started solidly, but not spectacularly. At the Brazilian GP, it was clear that he was building up a head of steam. At the Swedish GP, the caboose was at near full click, and now, at the second heat of the Latvian GP, he finally proved unstoppable.
This did not come by accident. The quiet Belgian was in a determined and confident frame of mind as he stepped off the plane in the Baltic. He had proven the naysayers wrong, rediscovered his mojo, brought top results to within his reach again. This is a testament to his dedication and drive as well as to the faultless backing of the HM plant KTM team. Essentially a privateer effort, the team has been taking the battle to the factory outfits, and with a great measure of success, to boot.
It was no surprise, then, when Kevin clicked off the fourth fastest time during the pre-qualifying practice session. He remained firmly in the ballpark during the qualifying race, piloting his bike home to eighth position. The rain clouds gathered overnight, and the track received a thorough dousing, making matters interesting for race day, to say the least.
Kevin mastered the challenging start and lodged himself into fourth position in race 1. Somehow, it just didn’t click for him and he was riding tensely. This is never a good thing on a track that has several crash monsters lying in lurk. Realizing this, Kevin kept himself on the safe side of the over-enthusiasm scale, and brought his orange machine home in 10th spot.
The first race did not augur well for a good overall result, but when the gate dropped for race two, the number 22 bike scurried off the line like a startled rabbit. Kevin soon had the company of multiple world champion and current series leader Antonio Cairoli, and the Italian soon took over the lead. Kevin always remained within striking distance though, and when Cairoli committed an unusual error, he was ready to pounce. With clear, crisp Latvian air in front of him, his nostrils flared and he was off into the distance. No one came close to challenging him for the remainder of the race as he rode to his first GP race victory of the season.
As unlikely as it may seem after a tenth-place finish in the first race, Kevin’s full-house of points in the second heat was enough to earn him a second podium call-up in succession. He was beaming from ear to proverbial ear from atop the podium, and with a full complement of KTM’s on the wooden steps, the Austrian team bosses could not have been happier.
Kevin has solidified his hold on sixth spot in the world standings, and hopes to continue on his happy ways at the next GP, in far-off Russia.
Reporting by Tinus Nel